Just when the Vancouver Canucks were getting healthy, the injury bug struck. Kevin Bieksa, who shares the team lead with five goals, left Friday’s game against the Nashville Predators with what the team is reporting as a groin injury.
Bieksa’s absence will be a hard blow for the Canucks to swallow. While he only had six points, his five goals ranked him second in the NHL amongst defencemen. Bieksa also played big minutes paired with Dan Hamhuis on the shutdown pairing at even strength and on both sides of special teams.
The Canucks will miss the combative blueliner, but they have some depth on defence that can help cover for his absence in the short term.
Alex Edler and Hamhuis, with 12 and 10 points respectively, are near the top of the scoring charts amongst NHL defencemen and can carry the load offensively. Jason Garrison should also have a second chance to incorporate his big shot on the second power-play unit in place of Bieksa. Chris Tanev and Keith Ballard will be able to soak up some extra minutes as well.
According to Vancouver Sun reporter Brad Ziemer's Twitter feed:
"Vigneault says Bieksa injured his groin. Doesn't think it's serious, will know more tomorrow. Alberts will go on Sunday if Bieksa's out."
If Andrew Alberts does draw into the lineup, this will be his first start this season. The 6’5” veteran blueliner has played a depth role on the Canucks in recent years, more than adequately filling in when injuries strike.
If another injury strikes and head coach Alain Vigneault needs to reach deeper into the depth chart, free-agent signing Cam Barker is still awaiting his first game of the season, although hopefully he doesn’t need to be called upon.
It is notable that the Canucks made it through 17 games before losing a defender to injury.
In the 2010-2011 season, the Canucks used 13 different defenders and only one defender played more than 70 games. In 2011-2012, they were a bit healthier, but still used nine different defenders.
So to have gone one-third of the season before suffering a blue-line injury is actually pretty remarkable in Vancouver.
Hopefully it isn’t a serious injury and Bieksa can return shortly. But if not, Canucks fans can at least take solace that the blue line is deeper and better able to absorb injuries than it has been in recent years.